Soul of the Garden

Images of Japan: Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto

Kiyomizu-dera is one of Kyoto's most famous sights. This Buddhist temple complex is dramatically situated on a steep hillside overlooking the city's Gion district.  Known as "everyone's temple," Kiyomizu-dera is dedicated to "goddess of mercy." With its buildings artfully strung out along the hill top, it is easy to understand why this complex is so admired for its graceful spatial plan. The main temple building juts out over a gorge and is supported by dozens of massive wooden beams. Kiyomizu-dera is the perfect destination after a stroll through the Gion district's narrow, shop-lined streets.

Kiyomizu-dera seen from one of its pathways on an opposite hill.


Pagoda and temple.


The main temple.


Evoking ancient times.


A Jizo statue. Jizo is one of the most beloved of Japanese deities and is usually portrayed as a monk. Known throughout the Buddhist world as a Bodhisattva (one who works to ease the suffering of humanity) in Japan, Jizo is viewed as a protector of children, expectant mothers, firemen, travelers, pilgrims, and the souls of children who were miscarried or who died before birth. They are frequently ornamented with children's bibs as a token of gratitude from parents.


Carved memorial.


And another.


At the entrance of every temple you encounter this scene - people ritually cleansing themselves before entering the temple precincts. The dragon motif for the fountains in nearly universal.


A young boy accompanied by his mother at the main temple.


Prayers to the goddess of mercy.


Temple gateway seen from the side with Cherry blossoms.


Just outside of the temple, a Buddhist nun with her begging bowl.


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